As the earth moved under their feet…

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Italian Salvation Army among first responders.

by Karen Gleason –

Cracks caused by the recent earthquake are seen on this building in L’Aquila, Italy. [Photo by Massimo Turse]

At 3:23 a.m. on April 6 an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale struck L’Aquila, Italy and nearby communities. Within minutes, the country’s National Civil Guard (NCG) met dispatched rescue workers. Two hours later, as the earth kept shaking, relief groups were on site digging the injured from the destruction.

The Salvation Army was among the first to offer support to the National Civil Guard through the command’s Emergency Coordinator Captain Emanuele Pavoni. The guard had coordinated hundreds of trained volunteers from all over Italy including fire brigades, nurses, doctors, policemen and soldiers. Ambulances arrived from nearby regions. Soon thereafter, camps provided shelter to thousands of homeless people.

With such a strong national response, the NCG told The Salvation Army that though the offer was appreciated, the situation was under control.

Meanwhile, a US-based charity offered a donation of four-person domed tents; SAWSO (Salvation Army World Services Organization) would arrange shipping. The Army’s command headquarters in Rome contacted the NCG again, this time mentioning the tents.

First hand information
On April 9, when the NCG would allow them in, Salvation Army personnel traveled to the affected area, where they found the organized relief work in progress. Accompanying Italy’s Chief Secretary Major Massimo Tursi and a soldier from the Rome Corps were three volunteers from the Hungarian Inter-church Agency. They witnessed the complete destruction of many villages.

In Onna—the village that took the greatest hit—no building remains undamaged. The relief proceeded as it had from the first day—searching for victims and even caring for sheep and cows that had been trapped.

In some more isolated communities, people preferred to remain with their animals and belongings even though their buildings were destroyed, rather than move to the camps. Some of these people, then, were completely cut off from regular support.

Immediately the Army team decided that these are the people in need of the Army’s support. They offered them smaller tents and kits including basic necessities (water, powdered milk, etc.).

The tents coming from the US should arrive in Rome soon; private citizens and other Salvation Army territories will provide food and other items, and trips to isolated affected regions will be ongoing. Through radio appeals, The Salvation Army in Italy hopes to raise the funds to support this relief effort.

Tursi says: The Salvation Army will be there. We pray that the Lord will confirm our plans in this first phase. There is a work to be done and we will do it.”

Donations to the relief effort may be made online at

From a report submitted by Major Massimo Tursi

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